This season opener checked most of the necessary boxes.
On NCIS: Los Angeles Season 14 Episode 1, the team tracked down some foreign baddies while dealing with their personal issues as the ghost of Hetty hovered over them.
In other words, it delivered exactly what longtime viewers expected, with few surprises. First came reminders of what team members had been up to, in case viewers had forgotten over the summer hiatus. That shouldn’t be possible in the streaming era, but old habits die hard.
In what promises to be the season’s most intriguing storyline, Deeks and especially Kensi were smothering Rosa when dropping her off for her first day of school.
They seemed to have forgotten what a tough life Rosa had lived through already as a refugee. Instead, they treated her like a child just starting kindergarten.
She just humored them. They meant well. What was her alternative, anyway?
It would be wrong to come down on Deeks and Kensi. After all, they’re accustomed to caring for each other and a dog.
A child brings a whole new set of challenges for them. And neither of them had great parenting role models on which to draw.
Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) brings Callen (Chris O’Donnell) into his office for a video call with Commander Neal (Jennifer Marshall), whose squad was doing joint recon work alongside the Syrian democratic forces when they came across an abandoned school used as a shared safe house. There were signs of an ambush, as well as human remains burned beyond recognition. One body had documents IDing her as an American, Trudy Chambers. Callen freezes upon hearing that. The Trudy they know is a small woman, he says, asking if the remains reflect that. They do. All they can do is wait on dental and DNA confirmation for a positive ID, but Trudy is one of Hetty’s known aliases.
Callen asks Kilbride about Keane (Jeff Kober), who was with Hetty in Syria, but there has been no sign of him. If she was ambushed in the safe house, that means that someone sold her out. And even if the remains aren’t hers, she’s still in danger. As Kilbride reminds Callen, Hetty was in danger as soon as she went back: There’s no such thing as a safe house in Syria, “but then again, this is Hetty we’re talking about. She’s got more lives than a barn cat and lord knows, she’s just as mean.”
After that, they’re stuck waiting for news. Callen works a case with the rest of the team, while waiting to hear from Kilbride. It’s not until the end of the episode that they hear. When Kilbride offers him a drink when he walks into his office, Callen asks if he’ll need it. “The longer you stay in this business, definitely, but not because of Hetty, not now,” Kilbride tells him.The remains belonged to a female child, but what’s a dead girl doing with one of Hetty’s IDs on her? Kilbride guesses Hetty planted it, because without forensics, it would convince whoever found the body that she was dead. Callen sees that as a sign that she’s in trouble, but again, Kilbride points out she was in trouble the minute she went back. Callen wants permission to go look for her, but just like Kilbride’s not getting what he wants (the knees he had when he was 30), that’s not happening, yet. If they had actionable intel, it would be a different story, he tells Callen. Until then, Hetty is on her own. Callen’s willing to use the leave he’s saved up, but Kilbride points out that they just had a foreign terrorist attack in their backyard, so there’s no way he’s letting him go halfway around the world to search for his surrogate mother.
Sam determined that the rest of the Iranians were heading to attack a Navy base in revenge for a deadly drone attack on a beloved Iranian general a couple of years ago.
Thanks to helicopters rustled up by Shyla, the team gets to the base before the Iranians and quickly captures them with minimal damage. It was a reasonably anticlimactic conclusion in an action-light episode.
Not surprisingly, the remains weren’t Hetty’s. Then the admiral rightly shot down Callen’s request to let him go hunt for Hetty in Syria.
No, we will not see Hetty again until Callen and Anna’s wedding, deep into the season.